There have been so many facets of our trip around Britain, the most obvious being the challenge of keeping Bella Rosa the right way up and pointing in the right direction. Some might say that we were crewless and clueless, but having been to The Isles of Scilly and back last year, and been forced by Alex to 'get to know our boat', we felt that we were ready to tackle what was left of the British coastline, which was nearly all of it.
Stress free passages were going to be all about making the right decisions based on the weather, the wind and the direction and strength of the tides. Timing is everything and this sometimes meant leaving a port in the wee small hours of the morning. A well timed bacon butty also helped still the waters of an early start.
We'd initially agreed that if a force six was mentioned in the forecast, we wouldn't leave port. Unfortunately, Bella Rosa had different ideas and refused to be stuck for long anywhere that didn't have a decent pontoon, a good chandlery and other posh boats to mingle with. With Bella Rosa's unrelenting determination to carry on, we soon realised that it's not possible to sail round Britain within a lifetime without going out in stronger winds.
We had very few dodgy moments, which was a big surprise as we were braced for all sorts of problems from bits of the boat falling off, the engine packing in, personal injuries, being stuck in a force 10 or even running out of Fox's Classic biscuits. The closest we ever got to a possible sinking were the two near collisions, one with the rampant Danish lady, and one with the badly positioned Black Deep red buoy in the Thames Estuary. If we'd had to choose between which one of the two was going to take us down, we would have opted for the the Danish boat, then at least there was someone else to blame. It would be hard to sue a static red buoy.
The second to last day. The end is nigh...
As for disappointments, we struggle to think of many, but the Cornish pasties we bought to have during our night sail, were an absolute travesty. We were also under the impression that the prevailing winds in Britain were meant to be South Westerly, but in reality, the prevailing winds frequently came from wherever we were facing, which made the sailing harder work.
We were expecting it to be cold, but not quite as much as it was. Sometimes I did feel a bit worn down by it, but was saved by my trusty hot water bottle, and having taken several hundred thermal vests with me. A big thanks to Marks and Spencer's for doing the three for two offer just before we set off.
We were thrilled to have sailed to The Outer Hebrides as it hadn't been on the schedule, but we didn't manage to set foot on land because we didn't want to leave the boat anchored alone in strong winds. She may have done a runner.
Our list of highlights is endless, the biggest one being that we've actually circumnavigated the whole of the British Mainland, enjoyed every minute of it and had the most tremendous adventure. Every single day has brought forth a new challenge, and the chance to reflect deeply on life in one of the most natural and unspoilt of environments - the sea. The simplicity of the sailing life has been truly liberating, and being constantly in the company of so much glorious wildlife from dolphins to puffins has been awesome.
Every day, even just stepping up into the cockpit with a cup of tea in hand in the morning, we've been able to appreciate nature in its rawest form. The sea can be wild, isolated, hostile and dangerous, but it can also be the most soothing of environments, a place of unadulterated beauty, and a refuge from the niggling details of everyday life onshore. There are no traffic jams. You are in your own little wilderness and yet not very far from the security of civilisation.
We'd always felt that there were so many places in Britain that we'd never visited, which was one of the reasons we wanted to do this trip in the first place. Travelling by boat, we've been able to see so much more of our Island home than we'd ever envisaged, from the more affluent areas in the South, to the struggling fishing ports in the North and East. We came across so many deliciously pretty tourists towns like Fowey and Tobermory, and very remote but strong communities on the islands off Mull and the Orkneys. We stopped in sophisticated marinas in big towns like Newcastle and Dun Laoghaire, tiny fishing harbours like Arbroath, big working fishing harbours like Lochinver, picked up mooring buoys in places like the Kyles of Bute and Otter Ferry, and anchored in out of the way places like Inverary and on Canna island.
The variety of terrain was vast, but the common feature in all these places was how interested, encouraging, kind, friendly and helpful the people were, no matter what their circumstances. We had the warmest of welcomes from so many locals, and met some of the loveliest of harbour masters and marina staff. We came to the conclusion that contrary to what the press lead you to believe, British people really do put the great in Great Britain and I think that we've both come back with a stronger sense of being proud to be British. We're so lucky to live here.
Circumnavigating Britain is without doubt a challenge, and as with all challenges, there is an accompanying camaraderie with others embarking on the same thing. A particularly special moment was when we were finally setting off to round Cape Wrath, and we found that we were in the company of Dawn Treader and several other French boats. Not only was it reassuring that they must have done the same calculations and had come to the same conclusions about the best time to leave, there was an unspoken bond unmatched by anything else we've ever done. We were setting off with similar feelings of excitement and trepidation, had the same lofty goal and were keen to watch over each other with the hope that they too would achieve what they set out to do.
As for our own situation, despite living together in a tiny space for twenty four hours a day, for three months, we had rare moments of snappiness. I think it was the knowledge that here was an opportunity to have the experience of a lifetime and we weren't going to let any bad humour spoil it. We were continually excited about what we were doing, and thoroughly enjoyed working it all out together. Even after 34 years, when you embark on something new together, you not only learn more about yourself, but more about each other. I think we'd both agree that it was all favourable. We were Team Tyrrell and having a tremendous time.
One of the most heart warming aspects of our challenge, was how much amazing support we've had from our family and friends. We've had huge encouragement, help and advice from well before we set off. Frances has been so constant in her support, she could well have been on the boat. The Randoms (you know who you are) gave us a great Union Jack theme send off party. Mark very kindly set up this blog for us, which has been such an enjoyable thing to do, and we've ended up with quite a regular following, which has been lovely. We've had the wonderful Vivien holding the fort for us back home, and checking the house regularly for deluges and acts of God and hugging Bonnie intermittently. Our dependable friend Stuart has looked after the garden and Bonnie dog for us as well as send on the post. Our next door neighbours David and Annie have been fending off squatters for us, and giving us loads of encouragement.
We've had the best sailing advice and encouragement from our sailing expert friends, particularly Mike, Janene and Jules. We especially liked the comment from Jules when we were about to do Cape Wrath, which was 'how bad could it be?' Jules has sailed in 70 knots of wind......
Louise and Peter came up specially to see us in Tarbert to check that we hadn't gone bonkers, and helped us check out a fish restaurant there - so selfless! We've had constant newsy e mails from so many friends keeping us in touch with what was happening back home. We've had great recommendations about where to go and which restaurants to visit from friends who knew an area well. Chris has been watching out for us on various webcams and doing screen shots of us coming in to various ports. My sister Sue has printed off the blog every few days and sent it to my parents who don't have a computer, so they've been able to keep up with our exploits. Sue and Richard not only appeared just before we left with a couple of customised 'Round Britain' sailing caps, but met us at the end with a Union Jack bottle of champagne and sailed back to Lymington with us. Melanie and John provided us with a boat bag of necessary equipment without which we'd never have got beyond Milford Haven - particularly the 'Laughter' hand wash. You have no idea how essential that was to our morale!
It was this warm wave of friendship and support that stayed firmly under us every single nautical mile that we travelled, that put the cherry on the cake for us.
All dressed up in our summer sailing gear for our final day heading back to Lymington.
There's so much more that could be said, but I'm going to stop here with a quote:
"Cruising has two main pleasures. One is to go out into wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters".
Howard Bloomfield.....'Sailing to The Sun'.
We may circumnavigate Ireland next year, but it won't take as long............promise!